Discovering who you are when you don’t work — Retirement Reinvention

October 19, 2023

Robin Ryan’s book Retirement Reinvention is key reading for any of us — once out of the workforce — who are struggling to figure out what to do with all the time. It all requires a plan.

First, she notes, the act of retiring itself isn’t always a planned thing. It’s one of four reasons “retirement can happen,” she writes — a choice, made on your own terms, or “you are burned-out, dislike, or just done with your current career, so you quit.” The other two reasons are “your career quits you because of outdated skills and/or your age,” or you are “`forced’ to retire because the company wants you gone.”

So if you have landed in the post-work reality, she writes, “the comfort of that (past) identity is lost, along with the work community you’ve been immersed in.” That’s where a plan comes in, she continues.

You need to think about, she writes:

  • “What about my identity? Who will I be?
  • What about my desire to be productive and important in my own eyes?
  • What about my emotional well-being?
  • Who will I hang out with?
  • What will do with another twenty or thirty years still to live?”

The book addresses these key questions in a well-written, example-laden way, complete with worksheets, and recommends that you plan retirement as well, or better, than you planned your work career. This is not a financial plan, but a life after work plan, the book explains.

Ryan notes that a lot of people just think retirement will be like vacation. They’ll play tennis, or golf, or lie on the beach.

“That plan, then, is to do nothing. The trouble with doing nothing is that you never know when you’re done! There is so much more to consider. How will you contribute? What will you learn? Whom will you teach? You’ll have plenty of time to lie on the beach, but you will also need to think about how you will nourish your soul.”

For those of us who just can’t visualize new things to try, she includes a detailed two-page list that includes things like dancing, dating, home brewing beer, pets, philanthropy, wine tasting and yoga.

In a chapter for those thinking of relocating when they retire, she advises that “moving quickly can be a serious mistake… if you think you want to move to be near family and grandchildren, maybe a dry run, such as renting nearby for a year, is a good way to start.” Many boomers “regret the move afterward,” she warns.

In a chapter on retirement spending, she notes that retirees spend more in their sixties than in their seventies, eighties and nineties. “This makes sense, as people in their sixties are more active and likely to do more travelling, and to enjoy sports and entertainment, and thus spend more,” she writes.

However, she continues, while a rule of thumb is that your retirement income should be around 80 per cent of what you were earning prior to retiring, “Money magazine warns that new research on household spending after retirement shows there is no predictable pattern… some households spend more — way more — than they did before retirement.”

Housing costs can increase in retirement for those of us who “maintain, rather than pay off,” their mortgages, she notes. Those retirees who are frugal tend to be able to live on 80 per cent of what they made before retiring, she adds. So, you do need to pay attention to your spending and living within your means, the book says.

Many retirees don’t want to try new things, which is one of several obstacles to a successful retirement.

“People over 60 can be very good at finding the negative, making an excuse or setting up an obstacle that they’ve put in their own way. Instead of seeing that a new activity, service or job could be fun and introduce them to new people and expand their world, they only see what might be wrong with it. You must approach retirement with an `I can do it’ attitude. That is imperative. Be open and flexible. Look for opportunities — they are all around if you look for them,” she writes.

Isolation is a danger as we age, she writes. We need to “make new friends and reconnect with the old.” Be a joiner, she advises — book club, card groups, any community group may be of interest. Rekindle old friendships via Facebook. And if there’s nothing out there to join, start something, she writes. “Dinner groups… (and) movie nights are very popular,” she writes, adding that knitting groups and poker nights can also be fun. “Don’t wait for the group or activity to find you — look for people and invite them to join you,” she writes.

She concludes by advising readers to “be flexible. Your plan is just a plan. You can alter it, and you can add in new things as you test drive them. You may meet new people who take you on new adventures. If you try something and it’s not great for you, don’t do it again. Make sure any volunteer work feels rewarding. Most of all, enjoy your days!”

This is a great book. As George Harrison once sang, “if you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” As retirees ourselves, we found joining local line dancing classes — an activity neither of us had ever done before — has indeed created many new friendships, and adventures. We were on a line dancing bus trip to Nashville last year, and are going on a line dancing cruise next year. Who knew we would like line dancing? We sure didn’t, but we do now.

An important consideration for retirement is saving up for it. If you don’t have a workplace pension plan, have a good look at the Saskatchewan Pension Plan. It’s a voluntary, defined contribution pension plan — you decide how much to save, and SPP looks after the heavy lifting of investing those savings via a professionally run, low cost pooled fund. When it’s time to try something new in retirement, SPP help you turn savings into income, including the option of a lifetime monthly annuity payment. Check out SPP today!

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Written by Martin Biefer

Martin Biefer is Senior Pension Writer at Avery & Kerr Communications in Nepean, Ontario. A veteran reporter, editor and pension communicator, he’s now a freelancer. Interests include golf, line dancing and classic rock, and playing guitar. Got a story idea? Let Martin know via LinkedIn.

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